October 2020 – Grand Canyon Arizona
Jane and I have been flying with our bicycles since 1981, and have loved every minute of it. From our first time carrying full size bikes in our small Grumman Cheetah, Piper Seneca II, Piper Meridian, Cessna 172s, and now, carrying them with us on flights in our Eclipse 500 Jet and Cirrus SR22 – all over the country and beyond.
What could be better, fly to remote and not-so-remote airports, unload your bicycles and have your own transportation. From my earlier posts on flying in the California Sierras, to the San Juan Islands, Bahamas, Moab, Sedona, Durango and one of our latest trips – the Grand Canyon.
Over the years we have used folding bike, full size road bikes, full suspension mountain bikes, and now our full suspension E-MTBs. Without a doubt it can be a pain to load bikes, however once you have the process optimized, it isn’t too bad.
Now that we have the process set, we know what we need for each particular plane. Our Eclipse Jet is actually one of the easiest planes to load. No matter which plane you decide to use there are some common points to remember:
- Know your plane – each one has to be assessed to see if it is possible to load them. In some planes, notably the Cessna singles it can be a pain in the ass to maneuver them into the rear.
- Padding – use lots of it around the bike to protect your transportation, and airplane. We use a padded moving blanket which works out great.
- Cases — I found, and love, the M-Wave wheel bags. Simple, padded, and inexpensive. Just pick the size that fits your wheels.
- Bike Frames. We disassemble our bikes for loading in the plane. I’ve done it without removals of both wheels and pedals, but it isn’t worth the hassle, cuts, or scratches. We take off the wheels – put them in the M-Wave bags, remove the pedals (or use quick release pedals) and use a fabric bike frame case. You can buy cases, or in my case Jane is an amazing seamstress and made ours. We put the pedals, and the wrench in a small plastic bag to keep the grease off everything else, place a small trash bag over the rear portion to keep our bags clean
- Of course if you have folding bikes you generally can keep the wheels on. We have used them, however we love our full-suspension bikes.
- Secure your bikes in the plane. This is extremely important – you don’t want 30-40 pounds of metal flying around the cabin in turbulence. In our Eclipse we can easily strap them down to the seat tracks.
The Trip – Boulder and Grand Canyon
Our recent trip to Colorado to fly the new Pilatus PC-12 NGX, Boulder, and the Grand Canyon will give you a good example. With practice, it probably takes us 10-15 minutes disassembly/loading and unloading/assembly of the bikes. Important Safety Note — take your time, don’t rush trying to maneuver the plane, and use help if available.
If you have an E-MTB, remove the battery if possible. Ours weigh 7 lbs and it makes it easy. Then turn your bikes upside down, remove the wheels, pedals (if desired) and you’ve done the hardest part.
The M-Wave wheel cases make it so simple.
After you have your bikes disassembled, determine who you want to load them. In our SR22 we load the frames first and put the wheels on top. In the Eclipse, they fit perfectly in the aft baggage area and still have room for our luggage.
Once we have the wheels loaded, it is time for the bike frames. Be careful as you load, so you don’t scratch your plane! It can be awkward in some aircraft, so take your time and also protect your back!
Weigh your bikes so you can adjust your weight and balance …. and don’t forget your pedals or tools back at the departing airport. Hypothetically I can know that to be an issue.
Having lived in Colorado for 13 years, it was great to return. For my PC-12 NGX flights we based our plane at Sheltair at KBJC, which offered awesome service.
I flew the PC-12 NGX down to Salida Colorado (KANK) and when I opened the rear door of course I thought….. More bikes! I’ve flown the PC-12 for 14 years and it is an amazing plane. I was flying this one for my November article in Twin & Turbine Magazine.
Biking in Boulder
We loaded the bikes in our SUV – the car not the plane! Boulder is a great place to ride and hike. After biking around our usual spots, we parked the bikes and hiked by the Flatirons. Highly recommended!
While we are out flying — How about another destination — the Grand Canyon
Boulder was great, however I had biked the south rim of the Grand Canyon and on very short notice, we opted to stop there on the way home to San Diego KMYF. The Grand Canyon airport couldn’t be more convenient for biking. There were very few ground transportation option, especially during the COVID -19 epidemic when we visited, so the bikes are perfect. The Grand Canyon Airline FBO provided us great service. Between Monte and Jeff who work there, it was an easy process. We probably took 10 minutes to assemble and test our Haibike E-MTBs – which are great to ride!
The trail up to the South Rim is about 7 miles and after about a mile on bike paths, you enter a portion of the Arizona Trail that meanders among the pine trees up to the Visitor Center.
Once you reach the South Rim Visitor Center you can ride in the local area, or as we did head west to join up on the rim road to Hermit’s Creek Trail Head. There are ample places to grab a snack. Another important Safety TIp — take lots of water. I usually drink in excess of 3 liters on my ride. It is high altitude – and dry. DON’T become dehydrated.
Now on to the Rim. BTW – some cell providers don’t work, so take your photos and post them later. Since you are on a bike your options are expanded and you can ride on many trails. The other big bonus is you can ride where others’ can’t drive (unless they have back country permit). You can ride along the same road that the tour bases take. The caveat is you have to yield to the buses and move off the shoulder when they pass.
The views are spectacular.
After 4 hours it was time to head back to the airport. The entire round trip was 38 miles, which was well worth the effort. Enjoy your travels!